Scotland politics

John Swinney urges SFA inquiry into football abuse claims

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionJohn Swinney said the inquiry should be conducted by an "authoritative, independent, respected figure"

Scotland's deputy first minister has said the Scottish Football Association (SFA) should set up an independent inquiry into historical child abuse.

Police Scotland is among a number of UK forces investigating allegations.

John Swinney told BBC Scotland he would not extend the Scottish government's inquiry to include football clubs but said that the SFA should consider a review.

The SFA said it was "open minded" to an independent inquiry.

A spokesman for the governing body added that any review must have the "right scope and terms of reference".

The SFA is due to hold a meeting with Police Scotland on Monday to discuss the issue of sexual abuse in football.

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Mr Swinney ruled out extending the remit of the government's inquiry looking into the historical abuse of children in care in Scotland.

He said: "I won't do that.

"Survivors group want that [the inquiry] to proceed. They don't want the timescale extended, which would be an inevitable consequence of extending into other sectors, whether that was football or any other sector."

But asked whether the SFA should look at establishing its own inquiry, Mr Swinney said he thought it should.

"I think first and foremost the police have got to be given the time and the space to address any complaints made by any individual who has had the whole experience of being affected by child abuse within football," he said.

Respected figure

"They must go to the police, there are helplines available to assist people to make that contact, and I encourage people to do that.

"I think the SFA should recognise the extent of the actions that various clubs have taken individually to examine previous conduct in handling these issues.

"But I think the existence of that information is now so widespread that I think the SFA has got to consider setting up an independent inquiry that will satisfy that these issues have been properly and fully addressed by everyone in football."

He said any inquiry set up by the SFA should be fully "independent".

He added: "It should be conducted by an authoritative, independent, respected figure who will be able to look at these issues without fear or favour, and to examine all of the issues to the satisfaction of the wider debate within Scotland.

"I think that's a necessity of the current situation that football in Scotland finds itself in."

Youth coach

The English Football Association has commissioned an independent investigation into the way it dealt with abuse allegations.

Earlier this week, former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith called for an inquiry into historical sexual abuse.

He said it should look at how clubs and national bodies responded to allegations.

His comments came after Partick Thistle confirmed that physiotherapist John Hart, who died in 1995, was dismissed from Firhill in 1992 after allegations of abuse were made.

A BBC Scotland investigation has also revealed that former youth coach and referee Hugh Stevenson was allowed to carry on working in football for several years after being reported to police and the SFA over child sex offences.

Opposition parties have said the Scottish government, rather than the SFA, should take the lead on any inquiry into abuse in football.

Responding to Mr Swinney's comments, a Scottish Conservative spokesman said: "Given the volume of allegations that have emerged over the past week, an independent inquiry is something that should now be considered.

"However, there will be questions as to whether the SFA is best placed to lead such an investigation.

"A government-instructed inquiry may be a better option to restore public confidence, and would avoid any conflict of interest concerns."

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: "Last week Kezia Dugdale called for the remit of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry to be extended, which is what survivors' groups want to see.

"It is difficult to see how an SFA-commissioned inquiry, effectively into itself, could hold public confidence. This is a matter the Scottish government should be leading on."

You can watch John Swinney's full interview with the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme on the BBC iPlayer.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites